The urban bike magazine

Bike Citizens Guide to Milan – Cycling through Nature, Culture and Amore

Past deserted factory sites and recently built districts up to the cathedral and on towards the large canal that leads cyclists up to the city gates: those who enjoy lively, urban life will love Milan by bike. The best time to visit the northern Italian City is from March to June and September to November.

Doro Staub is a copywriter living in Switzerland and Italy. She has been cycling in Italy for years. Anyone interested in doing the same thing can find plenty of colourful stories and tips on her blog Miss Move.
Explore "Parco Portello" in the North of the City of Milan. Photo © Rodrigo Kugnharski / Unsplash

Aperitif – (Cycling in) Milan in general
Past deserted factory sites and recently built districts up to the cathedral and on towards the large canal that leads cyclists up to the city gates: those who enjoy lively, urban life will love Milan by bike.  With 1.4 million inhabitants, Milan is Italy’s second largest city. It is a popular university city as well as a fashion capital, and is being frequented more and more by bikes.Milan is situated in the Po Valley. As a result, there are very few hills to contend with. In good weather, the Alps can be seen to the north, and in the south the Po rushes past towards the Adriatic Sea.

Winter in Milan is cold but often sunny. It gets very hot in summer: the Milanesi head to the sea. The city is therefore half empty in August and many shops are shut. The best time to cycle in Milan is from March to June and September to November. Milan can easily be reached by train. You can easily bring your own bike with you at little cost by coach. Of course, nothing stands in your way if coming by bike. Anyone cycling to Italy via the Via Claudia Augusta can take the train to Milan from Verona or cycle the last 170 kilometres westwards on side streets.

Direct cycle paths lead to Milan from Lecco at Lake Como (Adda cycle path) or from Sesto Calende (Ticino cycle path) at Lago Maggiore.

Milan

Milan is flat and not too big – perfect conditions for cyclists! Photo © Alex Vasey

Cycling Milano

For those who love lively, colorful cities – Milan is perfect for a cycling holiday. Photo © Comune di Milano

Milan weather

Cold winters – hot summers. Best time for travelling Milan is spring and autumn. Photo © Comune di Milano

Community locations and activities
In Italy, the FIAB (Italian Federation of the Friends of Bicycles) is the most active cycling association. The Milan section of the FIABregularly offers cycling excursions around the city or local area. They also hold courses, kids’ days and protest rides by bike. The FIAB is the best port of call for any queries about cycling in Milan.

Critical Mass: Every Thursday evening, bike friends gather on the Piazza Mercantini in front of the cathedral for a Critical Mass. They set off at 10 pm and come back around 12:30 am. This is rounded off with food. It’s easy to find like-minded people here.

Upcycle Milano Bike Café: Everyone is welcome at the Upcycle Milano Bike Café on via Ampère 59, where you can work on your laptop, read a book or meet up with like-minded people. A number of events take place here. Cyclists tell stories about their experiences, look at racing bikes together or take part in bicycle repair sessions. Every Wednesday evening, a mechanic is on-hand to fix any bikes brought along, free of charge. Upcycle is also a great spot for food and drink.

Hug Milano: The Hug Milano is a combination of a co-working space, bistro, hostel, bicycle repair shop and local meeting place. The repair shop is open every Wednesday evening from 7 pm, where you can bring your bike to be repaired. The Hug team is happy to help and loves a chat. Together with Wonder Ride, the Hug also offers bike tours in the region. All details are available on the Wonder Ride site.

The Cascina Cuccagna is a peaceful, green spot in the centre of the city. A hostel, various small shops, a premises for cooking classes and other events can all be found in buildings dating back to the 18th century. At the heart of these is the Trattoria, where you can enjoy a refreshing beer and admire the garden that is lovingly maintained by volunteers. The bicycle repair shop is a little on the outskirts of the city, where tools are provided for carrying out self-repairs along with a mechanic for assistance if required.

Cascina Cuccagna

Make a stop at the  marvellous backyard of Cascina Cuccagna Ciclofficina. Photo © Doro Staub

Ciclo Officina Upcycle

Every Wednesday evening, a mechanic is on-hand to fix any bikes brought along, free of charge at Ciclo Officina Upcycle. Photo ©  Upcycle

Bike repair and bike workshops
As mentioned above, bikes can either be self-repaired or repaired with the help of a mechanic in the Upcycle, Hug and Cascina Cuccagna cafes.The shop Due Ruote Porpora on Via N. A. Porpora 151 in the Lambrate district offers good mechanics at a fair price.Lovers of folding bikes should be sure to visit the shop Brompton Junction Milano on Via Melzo 36 near the Corso Buenos Aires shopping street.

Bike rental
Since 2008, public bike rental BikeMi has existed and works very well. Various subscription options are available: annual (€36), weekly (€9) or a day pass (€4.50). You can also rent them for €0.50 per hour. Electric bikes are also available and with a child seat if required.

  • Those who prefer to rent a high-quality bike from a dealer should visit the traditional Rossignoli shop on Corso Garibaldi 71. Here you will find well-equipped city bikes as well as speedy road bikes.
  • The family-friendly shop Frida Bike on Via Pier della Francesca 34 rents and sells cargo bikes for all imaginable purposes.
  • Four bike shops have joined forces to form Smile and Bike. Whether a city bike, cargo, folding or kid’s bike, you’ll be sure to find the right model here.
Piazza_Gae_Aulenti

The new city districs offer a quite good cycling infrastructure! Photo © Doro Staub

Idroscalo

Lake Idroscalo is a perfect destination for bicylce trips close to Milan. Photo © Doro Staub

Piazza_Duomo_milan

Watch handsome cyclists on Piazza Duomo Milan. Photo © Comune di Milano

Cycle networks and routes
Four percent of Milanesi cycle to work by bike. That is not a lot and is due to the fact that the 182 kilometre-long cycle network is not (yet) well networked and is poorly signposted. Thanks to the Expo 2015, many positive changes were made that benefit cyclists. The new districts in particular feature a cycle infrastructure whereby cyclists can travel along kilometres of canals (Navigli) stress-free.

Milan’s cycle network can be viewed on this map. The “vedovelle”, which are public drinking fountains, are also marked on this map. They owe their name to the constantly flowing water reminiscent of a widow’s (vedova) tears.

Ride on “normal” roads
If no cycle path is available, it is usually possible to ride on the normal roads. The Milanesi are tolerant and good drivers. Although the traffic seems chaotic, they watch out for other motorists, drive their cars within millimetre-precision and wait patiently when a bike approaches a crossing. Pedestrians also tolerate cyclists leisurely riding along the pavement without grumbling. Those wanting to take their bike for a longer spin in the city can take their bike on the Metro outside of rush hour free of charge.

There are two longer cycling routes that lead from the centre of Milan to the city borders:

  • Naviglio Martesana: following the canal east towards Trezzo sull’Adda (38 kilometres) and, if desired, continue on the Adda cycle path until you reach Lecco at Lake Como.
  • Grande Naviglio: leads from the Porta Ticinese 22 kilometres to the west, ending in Abbiategrasso. Those looking for more can take the Ticino cycle path from here south towards Pavia or north towards Sesto Calenda on Lago Maggiore.

The so-called Idroscalo is a special feature just before the south-west gates of Milan. It is a 2.6 kilometre-long artificial lake constructed during Mussolini’s era and is now used as a recreation area. You can cycle here in peace, swim in the lake or hire a kayak or pedalo.

All in all
Milan is known as a city of fashion, shopping and economics. However, many people are unaware of the quaint districts, romantic parks and canals as well as the range of cultural attractions. These little gems are best discovered by bike. And for those who haven’t had enough after cycling and feeling the breeze in their hair, can enjoy a gelato on the Piazza del Duomo and wave to the Madonnina at the top of the cathedral, a golden landmark watching over Milan for almost 250 years.

Doro Staub is a copywriter living in Switzerland and Italy. She has been cycling in Italy for years. Anyone interested in doing the same thing can find plenty of colourful stories and tips on her blog Miss Move.

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